A new totem pole is scheduled to be ready for the opening of the new Walnut Park Elementary School.
Designed to be seen from the highway, standing 45 feet tall, “the concept for the totem pole is about children reaching for academic excellence going up the pole to their eventual success at the top of the pole, said Birdy Markert, Indigenous principal for SD54, and the person primarily in charge of the project.
Ron Austin, master carver, will be carving the totem, and is at this time searching timber for the right size tree.
“It is an important project for the school district and the community,” said Mike McDiarmid, superintendent of SD54. “A totem pole would provide an opportunity to acknowledge and provide information on the Indigenous peoples of this area, for instance the history around Indian Town.”
McDiarmid is currently working with other organizations, such as the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Town of Smithers and provincial government representatives, to financially support the cost of the totem pole.
According to Markert, the anticipated cost will be between $250,000 and $300,000.
“The artist and master carver is Ron Austin, who is also a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en,” said Markert.
“His carvings are known worldwide, so we are very pleased to have such a renowned master carver for this project.
“Our intention is to have information plaques at the bottom of the totem pole that explain the history of the Wet’suwet’en people, and Indian Town.”
McDiarmid said the district is planning on having a carving shed set up at the site of the old Walnut Park school, so the children can be involved as the pole is carved.